Nanjing Night Net

Indonesia gets serious about nuclear energy

JAKARTA: Indonesia could formally embrace nuclear power as early as next year as senior Government members push to revive a proposal to build up to four reactors just 30 kilometres from a volcano in Central Java.Indonesia is beset by regular blackouts that are crimping industrial production and deterring investors, and nuclear energy is being resurrected as a means to meet the country’s growing electricity needs while also capping carbon emissions.But serious concerns remain about the viability of the plan, not least because Java is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that could cause catastrophic radioactive leaks.At the urging of the new Minister for Energy, Darwin Saleh Zahedi, the National Energy Council has begun assessing the construction of a nuclear reactor in the lead-up to a meeting to be chaired early next year by the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to approve a new energy blueprint.”There are pros and cons on the nuclear power issue but if you ask my personal opinion, of course I want to use it,” Agusman Effendi, a member of the council, said. ”The building should begin in 2010 because our fossil fuel resources are decreasing from time to time.”Mr Effendi suggested it could take 10 years to build the reactor.The Minister for Research and Technology, Suharna Surapranata, has identified 2016 as the possible start-up date.”The plan to build the nuclear power plant must go on,” he said this month, identifying the Muria peninsula as the most likely site.The peninsula has been favoured for as many as four 1000 megawatt reactors since 1983. Several attempts to build there have been thwarted due to public opposition, including in 2007, when Islamic clerics declared a fatwa against the proposal and locals staged a protest march.During this year’s presidential election campaign, Dr Yudhoyono appeared to back away from nuclear power when he addressed voters in Central Java. But, according to RMIT University’s expert on Indonesia’s nuclear program, Richard Tanter, the nuclear option has influential backers in the new Yudhoyono Administration.”It’s come alive with a ferocity that’s unexpected. It’s back, front and centre of the energy agenda,” said Professor Tanter. ”But it carries high-level risks for which Indonesia is not well prepared. There are very serious volcanic and seismic risks.”Gunung Muria, the volcano 30 kilometres from the proposed site, has been dormant for centuries, underpinning Indonesian confidence that the area is safe.But a 2003 study by International Atomic Energy Agency researchers obtained by Professor Tanter painted a far bleaker picture. It concluded that the 1600-metre-high Gunung Muria was capable of erupting during the lifespan of any nuclear plant, showering debris, hot gases and rocks on to the facility from vents as close as 4.5 kilometres away.Moreover, there was some evidence of a ”shallow source of magma capable of producing other types of volcanic phenomena” on the peninsula, while offshore faults could also lead to earthquakes that could rattle the plant.Such damage could lead to deadly radioactive leaks with catastrophic results, Professor Tanter said.Even so, Muria may still be the safest site on Java, which is riddled with volcanos and fault lines. The problem for Indonesian nuclear authorities is they need to build the plant on or very near Java, where the power is needed. Kalimantan is the only non-active area of Indonesia and has reserves of uranium but is too far away from population and industrial centres to make building a nuclear reactor there feasible.Indonesia has an abundance of coal, gas and geothermal energy reserves. But the coal is polluting, and Indonesia has chosen to sell its natural gas rather than deploy it in a significant way for its own energy needs.Geothermal energy – Indonesia has about 40 per cent of the world’s known reserves – has potential but is regarded as being incapable of being used on a large scale.
Nanjing Night Net